By Mark Zimmer
Tesla reservation holders are currently experiencing a “Get Amped” tour in 15 cities to test drive Model S. The plan is for 5,000 test drives and then to send the test drive vehicles to Tesla retail stores after the tour.
Driving from San Diego’s Comic Con to Oklahoma City gave me the opportunity to stop in Scottsdale, Ariz. and experience driving a Performance Model S and to visit the new Scottsdale Fashion Square store that opened on July 13. My number one desire was to compare Tesla Model S with the Chevrolet Volt that I enjoyed for over a year.
The new store is located across from the Microsoft Store. The two complement each other providing an “Apple Store” like learning environment to choose technology that best fits the consumer. The employees at both locations were knowledgeable and friendly.
An unusual situation occurred on the first weekend while Tesla was waiting for final approval. No onsite sales were allowed until all the legal documents for the store were completed.
While reservations were set by time, a last minute change was possible to drive the Performance model. Each participant was given a number while in the store and waited to be personally escorted to the covered valet parking area. Misting systems gave the arriving Model S a foggy day appearance during the extremely hot and dry conditions.
After a quick instruction session about the shifter and controls, the drive consisted of various speeds on rough and smooth surfaces for several miles of roads between the mall and freeway. One navigation error I made allowed me to take a U-turn, normally not a part of the test drive. The turning radius was adequate, but not tight. Turning Model S feels most unique, as the car does remain level. The tires felt like they might wear in turns, but that was just my imagination with the feel of the steering. The huge surprise was no creep after putting the car into drive. I liked it. Since there were no hills on the test drive, I could not test if the vehicle would move backwards while stopped in drive.
Overall the driving experience was a joy. The vision through the front window is wider than the Volt and is a major improvement for me. The larger size of Model S felt great and the car was easy to drive. The shifter on the right steering stalk is down for drive, up for reverse and press the chrome end in for park. The letters PRND show in the dash display where “Car Off” appears in the photo. The seat was surprisingly comfortable and should be perfect for longer drives that a 300 mile range makes possible.
Acceleration did not seem breathtaking at first since I was leaning forward to compensate for what I thought would be a “rocket like” take off. The tires did not squeal when pressing the accelerator down firmly from a standing start. That is due to the superbly controlled torque that prevented tire squeal from happening. The speed of acceleration became luxurious with the large padded steering wheel, a perfectly fitting seat back and the extremely quiet interior. Seeing the speedometer zoom up to 60 after 4.4 seconds was breathtaking. The electric motor or electronics make a noticeable tone during heavy acceleration. While driving on a side road, I was able to accelerate to the test drive controlled speed of 80 and back down to 50 very quickly. The regeneration braking seemed less than “L” on the Volt, but not by much. It is adjustable to be more like “D” if desired by accessing a touch screen control on the 17″ screen. I look forward to driving an EV again.
The one time Model S had a rough sport car feel was during a repaired road area when vertical motion transferred through to the 21 inch Performance wheels and tires. The bumps were softened by the suspension and was a much better feel than my 2004 Cadillac XLR.
I do have concerns in several areas. The number one distraction is a strip of distortion across the lower middle of the rear window. While the photo looking through the rear view mirror looks fine at first glance, notice the distortion of the dashed white lines and red curb. This is very noticeable while the car is in motion, that some reviewers have compared with a distorted fun house mirror.
Another concern occurred when braking was reduced at one stop. I had failed to move my foot to the center of the brake pedal and was pressing the accelerator at the same time. GM vehicles have the brake pedal closer to the driver and force the driver to lift the foot rather than sliding the foot over to the brake pedal. A thick rubber cover on this brake pedal might help the situation. For GM drivers, an annoyance could be the two left side steering wheel stalks. The lower one is for the turn signal, but the location is much lower than a GM vehicle. I found myself accidentally using the upper cruise control stalk several times. Finally, the front cup holder is under the center arm rest and too far back compared with most other cars. This can be solved with the future “opportunity console” that will allow a customer reconfiguration of the carpeted area between the arm rest and touch screen.
Tesla is running its production line slowly during July. That should allow time to make changes that might be necessary. All of my concerns may be addressed before the production car is delivered in September. The Performance model will have a top speed of 130 mph that I don’t intend to test! A detailed report and answers to your questions can occur after the car is delivered. Until then I suggest visiting Tesla’s web site for the latest details about Model S. The Enthusiasts Forum section on their site features the latest news from the owners and buyers.
This entry was posted on Friday, July 20th, 2012 at 5:55 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.